Original Research - Special Collection: Women Theologies

Hadewijch: Mystic or theologian?

Lisel H. Joubert
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 2 | a7574 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i2.7574 | © 2022 Lisel H. Joubert | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 March 2022 | Published: 07 July 2022

About the author(s)

Lisel H. Joubert, Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article engages with the reception and naming of women by contemporary historians and theologians. The core question is as follows: when is a woman received as a theologian? This question is looked at via the works of Hadewijch, a 13th-century Flemish writer. Scholars easily group together women from the High Middle Ages as mystics, referring to the experiential character of their theology and their writing in the vernacular. These criteria of gender, language and experience then disqualify them as theologians and qualify them as mystics. In this article, the dichotomy between spirituality and theology is revisited and examples of a growing discourse where Hadewijch and some of her contemporaries are called theologians are given. The genre of theology is then widened to recognise the worth not only of scholastic discourse but also of vision, poetry and bodily experience.

Contribution: The renaming of historical woman figures is of utmost importance in the understanding of what constitutes women theologians in the present day as well as for the healing of the divide between ‘spirituality’ and ‘theology’.


Hadewijch; mysticism; Middle Dutch poetry; Minnemystik; what is a theologian; High Middle Ages; mystical theology; beguines, Trinitarian theology


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